For months, Jeopardy host Alex Trebek was plagued by stomach pain. He had no idea what was causing it.
Eventually, he went to the doctor and got a terrible diagnosis: pancreatic cancer. And it had advanced to stage 4, which is considered incurable. Median survival is only three to six months.
The good news is that Trebek has already beat those odds. It has been nearly nine months since his diagnosis.
The bad news is that if his cancer had been found sooner, he would have a much better chance to beat it. When pancreatic cancer is found in its early, operable stages, it has a five-year survival rate of more than 50%.
“I wish I had known sooner that the persistent stomach pain I experienced prior to my diagnosis was a symptom of pancreatic cancer,” he said.
The 79-year-old first announced his condition in March.
He did remarkably well after initial treatment. In May, his doctors said he was in “near remission.”
“It’s mind-boggling,” Trebek said at the time. “The doctors said they haven’t seen this kind of positive result in their memory.”
But then his cancer-related numbers spiked. He is now back on chemotherapy.
Trebek said he went “all the way down to numbers that correspond” to someone without cancer… but then “it blew up and went 50% higher than when it was first diagnosed.”
The TV legend says that he is continuing to work, but it’s hard. Chemotherapy can sometimes “mess up” his vision. And it causes mouth sores that can interfere with his speech. He is struggling with weight and hair loss.
Trebek said chemo “has different effects on you for some reason and I don’t understand why.” The treatment causes “excruciating pain in my lower back, other times it’s fatigue, other times its nausea.”
Trebek has made a public service announcement to promote pancreatic cancer awareness. You can see it here.
In the one-minute spot, he addresses the dire nature of the disease. He outlines some of the symptoms and calls attention to World Pancreatic Cancer Day on Nov. 21.
8 Warning Signs of Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatic cancer is often symptomless until it reaches an advanced stage. And when symptoms occur, they can be vague and intermittent. So, like Trebek, patients often don’t see a doctor right away.
Here are the most common warning signs…
- Abdominal and mid-back pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Yellow skin or eyes
- Change in stool
- New-onset diabetes
- Digestive problems
- Loss of appetite
- Mood change
If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor immediately. They don’t guarantee that you have the disease, but you should rule it out as quickly as possible.
Pancreatic cancer can strike at any age, but it is rarely diagnosed in people under 55.
Trebek remains hopeful that he will beat the odds. He says he will host Jeopardy “as long as my skills do not diminish.”
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